Central England Co-op volunteers help provide hundreds of meals to fight holiday hunger in Leicester

Retailer's members and colleagues give up their time to support vital project.

Central England Co-op volunteers help provide hundreds of meals to fight holiday hunger in Leicester

Retailer Central England Co-op has finished a summer of support for a vital project in Leicester ensuring at risk youngsters were fed and able to keep active during the school holidays.

The project run by the charity St Matthews Big Local has seen around 100 children in the city take part in a programme of healthy activities over the last four weeks to keep them fit but also ensure they can enjoy a hot meal during the school holidays.

Store colleagues and members from Central England Co-op joined the staff from St Matthews to volunteer across the summer to help provide the meals and support the activities.

Almost 500 meals were provided over the course of the project with the generous volunteers from the retailer giving up their time every day of the four weeks.

Simon Johnson, Charity Manager at St Matthews Big Local, explained why the summer holiday programme had been so important and gave his thanks to the volunteers from Central England Co-op.

He said: “St Matthews Big Local is passionate about making positive change in our community. Over 500 children under the age of 15 in our community are living in poverty. This year, the government funded the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (HAF).

“The programme ran for four weeks over four days and for four hours each day. We were pleased to play our part in delivering healthy activities each day with a meal to the 100 children who registered for the programme. All of the children were either on free school meals or living in an area of deprivation.

“Our organisation has a small staff team of just five part-time staff so we approached our friends at Central England Co-op to see if they could support us again with the preparation of food and the associated clearing.

“As in previous years, they agreed to help without hesitation. A rota of staff was provided with two Co-op colleagues volunteering every day of the four weeks - a massive 128 volunteering hours.

“We always love working with staff from the Central England Co-op as they all have such a can do attitude - they come into the building and just get one with the job in hand with little supervision. “They have a great understanding of food safety, and they are all such a friendly bunch. Some have even signed up to help us with events next year.”

Karen Bevan, Member and Community Relations Officer at Central England Co-op, organised the retailer’s support and volunteered herself during the summer.

She said: “It has been really rewarding for myself, the store colleagues and members of our Southern Membership and Community Council to do our bit by helping to make lunches for children accessing this vital programme run by St Matthews Big Local.

“We have a great relationship with Simon and the team and, after supporting in 2019, were disappointed not to be able to be involved last year because of the pandemic. However, this is something we aim to help with every year.”

To become a member of Central England Co-op, visit https://membership.centralengland.coop/